U.S.A. on a Harley (12/4/01 - 16/6/01)
Distance 10804 km (229146 km to 239950 km)
This is part of the Seventh section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from the U.S.A. part 1
11/5/01 Camping, and the State Parks in natural surroundings have been recommended as better than the motor home rows in private campgrounds. To wake up in the morning to share the bodily function sounds, coming from the cubicle next to yours, from your own warmed toilet seat. To stroll between toothpaste rabid mouths and foaming beard removing faces. To be greeted and greet others bleary eyed, hair unkempt, staggering as no human should see another, except perhaps a long married spouse. These are the joys of the great outdoors. We cruised the 60 to Prairie du Chien and then following one of 32 highly recommended scenic drives from our National Geographic Map, headed north to La Crosse alongside the Mississippi River and onto the 16 to Preston for the night. America has such beautiful scenery, in rolling bright green hills and spring tree growth, particularly appealing if the road follows a winding river valley.
12/5/01 Americans are "big" on McDonalds and "big" on Burger Kings. In fact they are generally just big. We seem to have come full circle. In Africa in most restaurants people eat with their hands, mixing rice or maize meal into a ball dipping it into a fish sauce. The west of course is more civilized using knives and forks. However I couldn't help see the parallel when two workers lunched on McNuggets and fries alternately dipping to sauces and ketchup then face feeding by hand. Heading west on the I-90 and knowing that most H-D shops have free coffee we pulled into the Bergdale dealership to find its 16th anniversary going on with a large crowd and free burgers, as well as the free coffee. The individualists that a H-D bike creates along with the clothing, a group away from society's norms, the rebel look. But in the effort to dress differently from society, as a group they all end up looking the same. "You know Bill, he's wearing black, with a beard, 40+' ish, has a bandana or skull cap and leather coat, rides a big shiny bike. You know the guy." Ended up in South Dakota just west of Sioux Falls.
13/5/01 Our H-D that seemed so luxurious a way to travel to the Africans, self contained, independent and big is seen as a low grade alternative by Americans compared to their large motor homes. We often get the sorry look, "you travelling on that around America." Still heading west across the prairies, past that little house, with few trees and strong winds, picturing the wagon trains of settlers and indians fighting like so many movies of my era. Of course its now politically unacceptable to play cowboys and indians.
14/5/01 The oldies here, as it seems we are young enough to call them that, do all the casual and volunteer work. Retired yet too active to vegetate they are gainfully employed as camp hosts in state parks, work on fund raisers for numerous organizations, maintain roadside rest areas and can be called on for casual labour. The pay is from nothing to dreadful but a supplement to boredom. The Badlands, an area of highly eroded soils leaving pinnacles of clay rock, was used by indians and later outlaws fleeing posses. After camping in the Badlands we rode to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
15/5/01 You can't help but feel the history oozing out of these hills. History the world has heard of, at least through movies. Custer's last stand, Sitting Bull, Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse, Wild Bill Hickok. Even the bison are famous having starred in Dances with Wolves. We visited Mt Rushmore, the mountain dedication to four presidents heads, carved in the thirties with great controversy over the desecration of this beautiful area but now one of the most visited memorial sites in the U.S.A.. The granite weathered pine covered hills, nature's carving, equally as spectacular.
16/5/01 You could be excused for thinking that Americas immigration policy only allowed caucasians in rural and middle America and that all the darker races had to live in cities. We haven't seen a coloured American for over a week. We are still at Custer State Park, watching bison calve in the grasslands between ponderosa pine covered hills. They have about 1500 bison here and have a very controlled breeding management and sale or hunting of surplus animals. With so many visitors to the park the animals wander the roads between vehicles and graze just outside the campgrounds fence. Deer, elk and bighorn mountain sheep can also be seen and the damming effects of beaver.
17/5/01 Exercise on a treadmill, at a gym or jogging seems such a waste of energy when there is so much to be done in the world. Erecting, setting up and making beds in a tent, along with getting dressed sitting on the ground, walking to and from the shower block, along with packing up and loading baggage on the bike stretches most muscles and removes kinks. Aerobics is gained from cold showers. A loop ride to Sturges, without the half million motorcycles that are there during the first full week of August and an obligatory photo outside the H-D shop which is really just a glorified souvenir dispenser of Sturgis H-D paraphernalia. Onto Spearfish Canyon in the national forests riding the twisties alongside the creek at the base of cliffs, to Custer and our campground.
18/5/01 We keep being stunned by the generosity of Americans. A few days ago a lady stopped us at a petrol station, saw we were travellers and asked had we read Ted Simon's book, "Jupiters Travels". No, although within two days of commencing the trip in Australia in 1996 his book was mentioned to me and we had met him in Germany three years later. Well Chris, of Hill City, had a copy given to her by another traveller with the express request that it be read and passed on to hopefully visit as many places as Ted visited on his travels around the world by motorcycle between 1973 and 1977, and she had been looking for a traveller to fulfil that request. We accepted the book and will continue its travels.
19/5/01 On the move again south to cross and travel along the famous Oregon Trail. That East-West movement of about half a million people from Kanzas City, west of the Missouri to Oregon in the 1840's. Using land forms like Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff to guide them across the endless prairies. The six month journey of 2400 km killed about 10% of the travellers mainly to cholera and cold if they were delayed or if they left too late in the season. It makes our trip today across the same landscape and even along the same path seem so insignificant.
20/5/01 Exposed to the elements 24 hours a day relying only on the sun for light and our own body heat for warmth the weather plays the major part on our moods. A warm windless sunny day will bring joy while being cramped in a 2 meter X 2 meter tent all day in rain would depress even the most ardent agoraphobic. A temperature of 10 degrees and sunshine is vastly different from one with cloud particularly on a 400 km plus day. We headed into the Rocky Mountains National Park in glorious sunshine but with a forecast of snow and minus 5 degrees overnight, we relented and took a cheap (all relative at $34 US) motel room and it snowed overnight.
21/5/01 For $50 US you can get a yearly pass to all U.S. National Parks and monuments for a vehicle load of people. Quite amazing value and with it we walked to still partially frozen lakes and snowy valleys yesterday, and visitors centres and a museum today. We saw many elk and mule deer. It remained at or near freezing level all day and by afternoon, frozen, we veged out on the T.V. and absorbed shows we would never watch at home, such has been the deprivation we have had of the product.
22/5/01 Still cold but clear weather we headed down into Denver. We have noticed the need to warn against the "dangers" in the U.S.A.. The dangers about smoking are on cigarette packets, like elsewhere, but the dangers against drinking alcohol particularly while pregnant are stamped on every bottle of alcohol. The danger of animals posted prolifically in National Parks, the side effects of medicines are rapidly verbalized at the end of TV adds but the best one we have seen, on a road along a winding gorge was "In case of flooding climb to higher ground", pictured with a stick figure climbing a rocky hill. Just a little obvious we thought. Probably brought about by someone suing. This extreme brought on by hip pocket law is not followed with consumer laws for groceries where it is difficult to determine the contents of a product. Like a tin of "pork and beans". After doing calculations of daily allowance with serving sizes, in small print, it is possible to calculate the pork content at 3%. Beans with a trace of pork maybe.
23/5/01 Dr Greg Frazier invited us to visit his home in Denver. A motorcyclist since birth it seems this Crow Indian has done about everything possible on a motorcycle. He has raced them, ridden them around the world three times, and judging by his book on "Motorcycle Sex", well yes. Not happy to choose one bike or even one manufacturer he has over 20 in his collection having ridden dozens more, preferring to ride local bikes on his trips to the cost of shipping or flying in a motorcycle. Even though he admits to having owned a Harley-Davidson his passion seems to be Indian Motorcycles which he has about five and to ride prefers BMW's which I lost count of. We had met briefly 3 years earlier in Belgium and it was great to swap yarns of our exploits and mutual rider friends since then. The long distance biker community seems to be close knit as it's only other riders who fully comprehend the significance a long trip.
24/5/01 Generosity without expectation is an amazing trait that only some humans posses. And different cultures posses more or less of it. For some it is the giving of their time, others advice, some give money or presents or open up their homes to visitors. We have only seen a few people capable of extreme generosity and survive the demands of users. Some of those exist in America.
25/5/01 We took a long time to get to where we weren't going today. The road through the Rocky Mountains National Park opens from its wintery snow bed on the Memorial Day Weekend, this weekend. It also heralds the beginning of the summer and as if someone had turned on the tap the RV's, caravans and tenters are on the move again from their hibernation. We passed through the park, onto Fort Collins, and looking for a nights rest headed into Roosevelt Forest along the 14. But the droves were here before us and every campground was full. However national forests in the USA allow free camping, without facilities, and here we found a spot, not secluded as others had been turned away from campgrounds like us. Unlike the weekend holiday campers who trudge the bush for wood and a large campfire, draw out their fishing poles, having all the energy of a schoolchild in their outdoor experience, for us it is home and needs certain efficiencies to survive on a daily routine. The campfire is a petrol stove and the tent is quickly erected without discussion, argument or manufacturers instructions. Food is simple and quick and the campfire stories old, so it is to bed early.
26/5/01 The best roads we have ever travelled are up river valleys with the road winding as much as the river. The riverbed to hilltops usually spectacular scenery. America must be top of the worlds list for these types of roads as we have encountered many here already. The 14 does exactly this for over 100 km. With the forest areas disappearing we crossed to Wyoming and the desolate high mountain plateau between the ranges where the deep wheeled wagon train tracks of the great westward migration over 160 years ago can still be seen in this delicate landscape. Through Lander and onto Dubois for the night.
27/5/01 Some mornings you wake up and the world is perfect and others every little job seems like a frustration. From some other peoples view our world might look like everything they have wanted, but other peoples green grass always looks better when life is difficult. It rained almost as soon as we left, not heavy enough to get out the wet gear but heavy enough to freeze the damp jeans to our calves and knees. We spent most of the day dodging these storms and getting caught. The magnificent Grand Teton Mountain range, leaping up from the flats, with its receding snowy peaks lifted our spirits but the campground with some 300 odd sites filled with noisy weekenders dampened them again.
28/5/01 Yellowstone National Park, the worlds oldest, home to black bear and grizzly bear. Along the road a large black bear was drinking, finished and ambled across the road between two vehicles, whose occupants were watching him, before strolling back into the forest. Bison and elk were alternately resting and grazing between rain showers. Most of the park is at a height of 2000m deterring the bulk of visitors till after mid June. Our campground overlooked grassy meadows with a stream winding its way between grazing animals, in the centre of the park, and only had a few dotted tents now that the holiday season opening weekend was over.
29/5/01 Uniforms. No you don't have to wear school uniforms as the students rebelled against them but if you want to fish, its green waders, khaki shirt and floppy hat, waistcoat with lures. To cycle you need skin tight Lycra pants, bright coloured synthetic shirt and aerodynamically designed crash hat. To walk you need special hiking boots, khaki shorts, backpack with brand name and a walking stick. Unfortunately we don't have room for even all the dress code gear that goes with the motorcycle crowd so we are non fitters in with the other activities also. In Africa you are wealthy if you have clothes on the clothes line, meaning you have more than one set of clothes. Here you are poor if you don't have a set for every activity undertaken. Yellowstone has over half the worlds geysers concentrated in its small boundaries including the worlds tallest and the worlds biggest with familiar names like Old Faithful or Steamboat. With deep blue bubbling sulphur pools, some giving off blue steam or even pink steam, coming from the red microbes growing in the warm waters fringing the pools it is an amazing part of the world.
30/5/01 In 1988 a fire burned over one third of the park killing all the lodge pole pine trees in its path along with many small animals. Under great criticism for having let the park burn at the time, management now receives accolades for regeneration as the areas cleared now harbour a greater diversity and concentrations of flora and fauna. Management actually did nothing, allowing a fire caused by lightening to burn and let nature take its course to rebuild. We hardly left the campground absorbed in the sunshine and watching the bison and elk roam the meadow below our picnic table.
31/5/01 The northern part of the park is famous for bears and we saw our share today. A mother black bear and two cubs sleeping just off the road. A big male black bear hunting elk calves, and our first grizzly bear, just sitting in an open meadow watching elk. There aren't many places we have visited as beautiful and diverse as Yellowstone, with its thermal activity, animal life, mountain scenery, rivers, lakes and gorges. It was fortunate that such beauty existed in a country capable enough to appreciate and protect it.
1/6/01 Travel is really just a form of escapism from the mundane. The jobs had built up in Yellowstone and needed solving today, reality. Body and clothes washing (no showers in National Parks campgrounds in the USA), shopping and internet, Also the rear tyre was dead after 16,000 km. We had just received an email that Dunlop America would give us free tyres while we travelled North America. They would send them for us to collect at H-D dealers along the way. But needing one today, Yellowstone H-D in belgrade gave us one, to be replaced by Dunlop at a later date. 300 km and we had achieved many things in one day. In Africa we were grateful to achieve just one thing.
2/6/01 From Butte along the 15, 43 then 93 to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Alongside the Salmon River, the longest "free running" river in the USA.
3/6/01 With rain looming we had chosen a hotel room last night, but by checkout time today the sleet continued and the surrounding hills were white. We checked in for another night and veged out on TV.
4/6/01 Same again, freezing wind, ice on the motorcycle seat and threatening clouds. We can't see America from the hotel room so a brief glance at Craters of the Moon National Monument, an old lava flow with lava tubes, bombs and different formations. Its now 2 degrees and drizzle rain with strong winds dropping off yesterdays snow. Even the Widder heated vest can't keep up with wind chill and travelling at 110 km/hr. We arrived at the interstate 84 to thaw out at a hamburger place. The afternoon warmer but neither of us prepared to camp our after a 600 km day and more threatening rain.
5/6/01 Rain again overnight and a cloudy cold start to continue across the highland prairies. We are slowly settling into American life with its extremes after Africa. One thing we find hard to adjust to is the different regulations and rules for every state, having visited thirteen in our short time here. We were pumping gas only to find out that in Oregon it is illegal, carrying a $US 500.00 fine. We subsequently found out that self service petrol stations are illegal in only two of the 50 US states. Road rules also vary from state to state as do state park and forestry camping regulations. The USA is indeed a conglomeration of 50 united states, each independent. A short hop to Bend and forestry camping alongside a mountain stream for the night.
6/6/01 I am sure we are only sent bad weather so we can fully appreciate good weather. The sun is out at last allowing us to lizard in our black clothing overlooking the enormous crater in Crater Lake NP. This 600m deep lake reflecting the blue sky in its clear waters is the bluest of blues possible. Surrounded by snow capped peaks and trees, still dropping snowy ice thaw, with fluffy clouds casting patchy shadows, we slowly restored core warmth. A picnic, a chat with other tourists, doesn't the weather make a difference?
7/6/01 The western side of the range more fertile with enormous tall straight pines. There seems to be enough timber here for centuries of use. They are mosaic logging. Small areas are almost totally cleared of trees, some other areas are now regrown with small trees, other areas are dense with arm sized trunks, still others virgin forests that have never been logged. We took a dirt trail up over the mountains to Oakridge where Eric and Gail Haws had offered us their house to stay in. These motorcycle adventurers crossed Russia from Magadan to Moscow in 1992, and again like so many others travel is now in their system, and they have been touring the world, off and on, ever since. We met them in Australia in 1995 just before the commencement of our trip, where they gave us great advice, and we met again when they were giving a slide presentation on their travels in Germany in 1998. They are again touring which is why we have their house to ourselves.
8/6/01 Most people we meet in the USA are retired. They of course are the ones in R.V. parks and have the time to talk and talk and talk. But the US seems to be the first country suffering from the ageing population and solving it, not by having more children but through immigration. Their close neighbours are providing cheap labour to look after the elderly. Not necessarily directly, but the elderly have the money. They buy imported goods, eat in restaurants and need house repairs. All provided cheaper by neighbourly labour.
9/6/01 Still enjoying the comfort of house space and a 14 acre garden nestled into the pine covered mountains. Its fishing weekend in Oakridge. Salmon are trapped here annually, milked of eggs and millions of small fry released to ensure their future survival and the survival of sport fishing for anglers. This happy balance between nature and man extends to antelope, deer, bear and cougar. Each year a ballot is run for the cull of forest animals, tags issued, fees paid and animals shot. The money goes to management of the wildlife and ensures its survival. Some rules though seem a little out of proportion where a 12 yr old can use a rifle to shoot a bear but must be 21 yrs old to have a sip of alcohol.
10/6/01 We were going to move on today but the thermometer told us to leave it till tomorrow. This small attachment to our tank bag tells us why we are hot or freezing. Tells us how many layers of clothing to wear, whether to go for electric heat and summer or winter gloves. Probably one of the most useful extra gadget we carry because trying to judge the temperature, just sitting on a motorcycle for hours, is quite difficult when you are busily packing up the tent and the motorcycle.
11/6/01 Florence, and we are back at the Pacific Ocean again, four years since the motorcycle has seen it, and we have been across the U.S.A.. From here the next big stop is the top of Alaska. Rain again. They say if you don't like riding in the rain in Oregon don't buy a motorcycle. I asked the waitress in a diner when she thought the rain would stop. She said she has been here 37 years. The coastal scenery would have been great if we could see it. It didn't stop people braving strong winds to see the sea lions at seal cave where the sea lions get shelter out of the wintry weather.
12/6/01 Further north and its whales today. Two sighted from a peninsula with one lounging near a rocky island just off shore for over an hour. Four or five blows then it disappeared for a few minutes to reappear close by, a California grey whale, and it would occasionally show its tail fluke or pectoral fins. Patchy sun although still cold, there were a few coffee spots to overlook the ocean, warming up behind glass. Over bottomless cups at a reasonable price we sometimes sit for hours reading, planning and people watching while warming up out of the weather.
13/6/01 Even 20 years after it blew over 400 metres off its height, Mt. St Helens still draws crowds of sightseers, particularly since the school holidays have started. Despite it giving scientists two months warning almost 60 people died, most outside the restricted area. It was just a bigger event than they thought possible. The surrounding valleys are still full of debris, ash and silt with the rivers having to cut new paths. The splintered trees still lie in a line away from the mountain and new vegetation has barely begun growing. After our sightseeing we continued north through Washington State.
14/6/01 Right into the north west corner of the country and Olympic National Park with its beach front littered with enormous driftwood pines to its rainforested slopes of the mountains. Almost never dry here and always cool the dampness soaks into everything including us. But they say its summertime and therefore hotels switch to higher prices and are fuller and we camp amongst tall pines in the park.
15/6/01 A walk in the woods and a warming log fire.
16/6/01 The cloud had cleared from the mountain tops for
the crisp morning and the views across to snow and glacier capped Mt. Olympus
superb. We had an appetite creating walk above the tree line in alpine meadows
sighting occasional deer with spotted fawns. It was time to leave the U.S.A.
for a while, by ferry at Port Angeles, $US 25.00, to Canada.
Move with us to Canada ,
or go to our next visit to the United States of
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